Holder heading into contempt proceedings over Fast and Furious
by MATTHEW BOYLE
June 28, 2012
It's expected that Attorney General Eric Holder will be held in contempt of Congress on Thursday. Holder would be the first attorney general in the history of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress.
Holder is going to be held in contempt is because he has failed to comply with a congressional subpoena related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa served him the subpoena last October - more than half a year ago - and Holder has only provided Congress with 7,600 pages worth of information of the 140,000 pages he said he has identified internally. Many of the submissions were fully redacted or blacked out.
Fast and Furious began under President Barack Obama's administration. It was a program run out of the Phoenix, Ariz. office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - which is ultimately overseen by Holder's Department of Justice.
In the program, the Obama administration facilitated the sale of about 2,000 assault weapons to Mexican drug cartel criminals through straw purchasers - a tactic known as gunwalking. The administration intimidated gun-store owners into selling guns to suspected straw purchasers - people who ultimately trafficked the guns into Mexico. The stated goal was to track the weapons with the ultimate target of bringing down bigger fish in the overall arms-trafficking market.
By congressional Democrats' and the Obama administration's own admission, Mexico was never informed of what was going on.
After the weapons were allowed to walk, the only way to track them was to find them at crime scenes. It's widely known that Mexican drug cartel operatives abandon their firearms at the scenes where they use them so that they don't get caught with the weapons later. With serial numbers and ballistics information from the abandoned firearms, the agents would put together big trafficking cases.
Although guns the U.S. government gave to cartels were used to kill Mexicans, the operation began to unravel when two Fast and Furious firearms were found at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on Dec. 15, 2010, in Peck Canyon, Ariz. Terry's slaying 17 miles inside the United States-Mexico border sparked whistle-blowers from inside the ATF, who were involved with the operation, to come forward and explain what happened. They came to Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa with their story, and he pushed for answers on what went wrong. On Feb. 4, 2011, now-former Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich wrote to Grassley denying that guns were ever walked.
In the months that ensued over the course of 2011, Issa and Grassley worked together with other members of Congress to investigate the allegations. House oversight committee ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings promised Terry's mother he would "not rest" until the truth about Fast and Furious came out and everyone involved was held accountable.
Early in 2011, the National Rifle Association threw its weight behind the congressional investigation and called for Holder's resignation - despite some recent media reports alleging that the gun lobby group has only just weighed in fight as Holder heads to a likely contempt vote on Thursday.
In October 2011, memos surfaced that showed Holder was given critical details of Fast and Furious - including that guns were allowed to walk - while the operation was still underway. Though Holder said he never read the memos, members of Congress began demanding his resignation over the scandal.
Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar told The Daily Caller that he thought Obama administration officials responsible for Fast and Furious could be considered accessories to murder because people died as a result of their actions. That prompted Holder's first-ever unsolicited letter to Issa about the scandal, in which he attacked Gosar's comments as "inflammatory rhetoric."
Later in October, Issa served Holder with a subpoena legally requiring him to provide 22 categories worth of Fast and Furious documents to Congress.
As resignation calls built into November, Holder lost his temper when TheDC pressed him to respond to questioning at a White House event: "You guys need to - you need to stop this," Holder said of TheDC's reporting. "It's not an organic thing that's just happening. You guys are behind it."
In December 2011, Holder's DOJ withdrew Weich's February 2011 letter denying gunwalking in Fast and Furious with the admission that it was false and the whistle-blowers' accusations were correct.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney demanded Holder's resignation in early December 2011, and during a Dec. 8, 2011, House Judiciary Committee hearing, Holder admitted that more people in Mexico would likely die because of the walked guns that have yet to be recovered. At least 300 Mexican civilians have been killed with Fast and Furious weapons.
As the calls for his resignation mounted, Holder went to Charlie Savage of The New York Times for an interview on the topic and played the race card: "This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him," Holder said. "Both due to the nature of our relationship, and you know, the fact that we're both African-American."
Florida Republican Rep. Allen West, himself a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, denounced Holder's use of race to attack his detractors, calling it the "last card in the deck."
Gosar introduced an official House resolution of "no confidence" in Holder, which members started signing en masse.
More members of Congress kept adding to the demands for Holder's resignation in the early months of 2012. Holder missed deadline after deadline and kept refusing to provide Fast and Furious documents to Congress. Then, hours before a House oversight committee hearing in early February, TheDC broke a story about how Holder pulled the plug on prosecutions of alleged financial criminals and bribed U.S. Virgin Islands politicians, further adding to the attorney general's public challenges.
As spring 2012 came around, a total of 129 House members had called for Holder's resignation. Seven U.S. senators and two sitting governors - Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas - joined them. Groups like the AFL-CIO-backed National Border Patrol Council, the Republican National Lawyers Association and more have demanded Holder's resignation as well.